‘Foxtrot’ film sweeps Ophir Awards as politics stay in spotlight
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Best actor Ashkenazi hails 'most Israeli film in years'

‘Foxtrot’ film sweeps Ophir Awards as politics stay in spotlight

Movie about grief and IDF wins eight prizes, including best picture, actor and director at Israeli version of Oscars, as speakers blast absent Regev

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Sasson Gabai, left, hands an award to film director Samuel Maoz at the 2017 Ophir Awards ceremony on September 19, 2017. (Flash90)
Sasson Gabai, left, hands an award to film director Samuel Maoz at the 2017 Ophir Awards ceremony on September 19, 2017. (Flash90)

Director Samuel Maoz’s sorrowful “Foxtrot,” an ode to the realities and woes of Israeli life, swept the 2017 Ophir Awards Tuesday night with eight wins, including Best Picture and Best Director.

The win followed the film’s prestigious prizes at the recent Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, and came even as Israel’s culture minister continued to pillory the film for casting the Israeli military in a critical light.

The Ophir awards are considered to be Israel’s version of the Oscars, and the film that wins the best picture category is often the country’s nomination for the Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.

Besides winning the awards for Best Picture and Director, the film’s top actor, Lior Ashkenazi, won the award for Best Actor, and “Foxtrot,” also took the awards for Best Music, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Soundtrack.

“Foxtrot” director Samuel Maoz, or Shmulik, as he is known, said the film was meant to open discussion and create dialogue.

“I wasn’t born a director, I was once a soldier,” said Maoz (who was an IDF gunner), standing on stage in jeans and a jacket. “‘Foxtrot’ is a film I made out of love for this place and for its people, and for film, of course. And if you go to see ‘Foxtrot,’ you will see that.”

The comments were pointed at Regev, who denounced the film after its Venice win and has said she won’t see it.

Following her vociferous statements about the film, and her threats to pull funding for any film that is critical of the Israeli government, the Israeli Academy of Film and Television announced it would not invite Regev to the Ophir Awards ceremony, citing her behavior last year, when she stormed out of last year’s awards ceremony in protest of the recitation of a poem by a Palestinian poet.

“We also tell the story of the State of Israel,” said Mosh Danon, chairman of the Israeli film academy at Tuesday night’s ceremony. “None of us have the mandate on truth.”

Regev herself broadcast a speech on her Facebook page slamming the decision to exclude her from the ceremony and continuing to take aim at “Foxtrot,” calling it a “blood libel.”

Danon emphasized the need to discuss and reflect, rewarding the best work, and urged others not to use the microphone on stage to criticize those who weren’t present at the awards ceremony.

Still, it was too tempting for many of the presenters and award recipients to resist their own calls for artistic freedom.

Lamis Ammar, one of the actresses in last year’s award-winning “Sand Storm,” a Bedouin family drama, wouldn’t take the stage last year when Regev presented the award for Best Film, in protest of Regev’s comments at the awards ceremony.

This year, Ammar, a Palestinian actress, presented the 2017 Ophir for Best Supporting Actress, and took the opportunity to say that Palestinian actors “won’t stop creating — with money and without — from this stage and from prison too.”

The winner of the award for Best Supporting Actress, Mouna Hawa of “In Between,” a film by Palestinian director Maysaloun Hamoud about Palestinian women navigating life in Tel Aviv, stayed away from politics and thanking the filmmakers for the opportunity to make a film about female solidarity and the desire to live as an independent person.

Her director and fellow “In Between” actress, Hamoud, who won the Ophir for Best Actress, paraphrased Martin Luther King, and said she would continue to demand freedom and to never ask for permission to be who she is.

When actor Lior Ashkenazi won the Ophir for best actor, the third Ophir of his career, he returned the evening’s theme to Regev and a defense of the film’s values, commenting that his daughter would soon be drafted into the army, “because she wants to, those are her values and that is who she is,” he said.

Director Samuel Maoz, center, and actors Lior Ashkenazi, left, and Sarah Adler pose during the photo call for the film “Foxtrot” at the 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

“‘Foxtrot’ is maybe the most Israeli film in the last few years,” said Ashkenazi. “It’s not about Ashkenazim and Mizrachim, or left and right, it’s a film about us. There’s no Israeli who will see this and not see himself in it.”

Other winners were Ami Smulgargik for best supporting actor for “Scaffolding,” about the effects of an inspirational schoolteacher, and “Longing,” also nominated for many of the top awards, which won for best screenplay.

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